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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

This article was written by Kayelene Kerr from eSafeKids.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a legally binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

The UNCRC was adopted by the United Nations in November 1989. World leaders made a commitment to the world’s children by adopting the UNCRC. All countries that sign up to the UNCRC are bound by international law to ensure it is implemented.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable (can’t be taken away) rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. It establishes children’s rights as inalienable and universal human rights and it is the most widely ratified human rights instrument in the world.

Australia ratified the UNCRC in December 1990, which means that Australia has a duty to ensure that all children in Australia enjoy these rights.

The UNCRC consists of 54 articles. Under the terms of the convention governments are required to meet children’s basic needs and help them reach their full potential. Central to this is acknowledgment that every child has basic fundamental rights. These include the right to:

  • Life, survival and development

  • Protection for violence, abuse of neglect

  • An education that enable the child to fulfill their potential

  • Be raised by, or have a relationship with their parents.

  • Express their opinion and be listened to.

In 2000, two optional protocols were added to the UNCRC. One asked governments to ensure children under the age of 18 are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces. The second calls on states to prohibit child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children into slavery. A third optional protocol was added in 2011. This enables children whose rights have been violated to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Theme 1 of the Protective Behaviours program is:

We all have the right to be safe and to feel safe at all times.

All – Includes everyone, adults and children, no one is excluded. Even if someone has made poor choices or been punished for doing something wrong or illegal they still have the right to feel safe. Reinforce with children there are no exceptions to this right.

Right – Children are born with a number of universal rights. These rights do not have to be earnt and cannot be taken away. Discuss the difference between rights, wants and responsibilities. You have the right to feel safe and you have the responsibility to make sure your behaviour doesn’t make someone else feel unsafe.

Feel safe - Being safe is important and we all have the right to be safe from harm. It’s equally important children feel safe. Recognising what safety feels like can assist children to recognise when they feel unsafe. Teach children that if they don’t feel safe they can talk with a trusted adult.

Physical and emotional safety is an individual experience, in the same circumstances people can feel differently. There is a difference between being safe and feeling safe. For example during a thunderstorm a child may be safe, but not feel safe; holding a snake, it’s not venomous but you may feel unsafe holding it; walking past a dog that is chained up and barking, you may be physically safe, but not feel safe.

Where do you feel safe? Who do you feel safe with? What makes you feel safe? What happens on the inside and outside of your body when you’re feeling safe/unsafe?

At all times – The right to feel safe exists at all times. At home, at school, at a public place, at a camp, at a friend or family member’s house, if you are with people you know or people you don’t know.

VISIT: The eSafeKids Members’ Community for a link to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child written in a child friendly language.

To learn more about eSafeKids workshops and training visit our services page.

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Join the free eSafeKids online Members' Community. It has been created to support and inspire you in your home, school, organisation and/or community setting.

About The Author

Kayelene Kerr is recognised as one of Western Australia’s most experienced specialist providers of Protective Behaviours, Body Safety, Cyber Safety, Digital Wellness and Pornography education workshops. Kayelene is passionate about the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation, drawing on over 24 years’ experience of study and law enforcement, investigating sexual crimes, including technology facilitated crimes. Kayelene delivers engaging and sought after prevention education workshops to educate, equip and empower children and young people, and to help support parents, carers, educators and other professionals. Kayelene believes protecting children from harm is a shared responsibility and everyone can play a role in the care, safety and protection of children. Kayelene aims to inspire the trusted adults in children’s lives to tackle sometimes challenging topics.

About eSafeKids

eSafeKids strives to reduce and prevent harm through proactive prevention education, supporting and inspiring parents, carers, educators and other professionals to talk with children, young people and vulnerable adults about protective behaviours, body safety, cyber safety, digital wellness and pornography. eSafeKids is based in Perth, Western Australia.

eSafeKids provides books and resources to teach children about social and emotional intelligence, resilience, empathy, gender equality, consent, body safety, protective behaviours, cyber safety, digital wellness, media literacy, puberty and pornography.

eSafeKids books can support educators teaching protective behaviours and child abuse prevention education that aligns with the Western Australian Curriculum, Australian Curriculum, Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and National Quality Framework: National Quality Standards (NQS).

Protective Behaviours


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